Avalanche get Ryan Johansen in trade with Predators

In need of a second-line center, the Colorado Avalanche acquired Ryan Johansen from the Nashville Predators in exchange for depth forward Alex Galchenyuk.

Finding a second-line center who could work within their salary cap constraints has been a priority for the Avalanche since they lost Nazem Kadri to the Calgary Flames in free agency after winning the Stanley Cup.

The trade for the 30-year-old Johansen, who had 12 goals and 28 points in 55 games this past season, fills both of the Avalanche's needs. The Predators are retaining 50% of Johansen's contract, which has two years left at $8 million annually. Galchenyuk is a pending unrestricted free agent who spent most of the 2022-23 season in the AHL and had zero points in 11 games with the Avs.

"Ryan is a talented, veteran center who helps our top six," Avalanche general manager Chris MacFarland said in a statement. "He gives us size in the middle of the ice and brings leadership and experience to our roster. We look forward to adding him to our team."

Losing Kadri in free agency, along with cap challenges, forced the Avalanche to rely on a rotation of players to fill that second-line center void. J.T. Compher would eventually offer the sort of two-way stability that gave the Avs a second-line anchor who scored 17 goals with a career-high 52 points before they were eliminated by the Seattle Kraken.

Getting knocked out in the first round gave the Avalanche an early start on trying to retool their roster. Compher is one of eight pending UFAs in addition to veteran defenseman Erik Johnson, who ESPN's Emily Kaplan reported is not expected to re-sign with the team. There also is the three-player pending restricted free agent class, led by defenseman Bowen Byram, who are in need of a new deals.

Johansen had been with the Predators since the 2015-16 season after he was traded from the Columbus Blue Jackets in a deal that saw defenseman Seth Jones head in the other direction.

Trading Johansen continues what has become a rebuilding phase in Nashville.

The Predators used the NHL trade deadline to signal their intent after trading away players such as Mattias Ekholm, Tanner Jeannot and Nino Niederreiter for draft capital.

When he first arrived in Nashville, Johansen was a top-line center who later gave the team a second top-six option after they signed former Avalanche center Matt Duchene to a seven-year deal worth $8 million annually before the 2019-20 season.

A three-time 20-goal scorer, Johansen finished with more than 50 points in his first three full seasons with the Predators. But the next two seasons saw Johansen finish with a combined 58 points over 116 games.

Nashville had reached the playoffs in eight straight seasons with the peak of that run coming when they reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2016-17 before losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games.

The Predators advanced to the second round the following season, but then got knocked out in the first and/or qualifying round in four straight seasons.

Having two $8 million centers in Duchene and Johansen, coupled with the inability to get beyond the first round, forced the Predators to make a decision on their future.

That's when they announced that longtime general manager David Poile would be stepping down after the season and he would be succeeded by Barry Trotz, who was the first coach in franchise history.

After winning the Stanley Cup a season ago, the Avalanche find themselves with salary cap concerns, one way they were able to navigate their cap constraints came at a cost. The team announced in May that captain Gabriel Landeskog, who missed the 2022-23 season after having surgery on his right knee, is expected to miss the 2023-24 season after a second procedure on the same knee.

Moving Landeskog and his $7 million contract to long-term injured reserve allowed the Avs to create cap space at the expense of being without their captain and top-six left winger, who is a seven-time 20-goal scorer.